Published on August 2nd, 2017 | by Justin Giza0
Most of the planet’s population has mysteriously vanished. Purple storm clouds roll across the earth, spawning horrible undead things. As the commander of your fort, you’re going to push back and stop this menace once and for all.
Fortnite is a co-op over-the-shoulder game from Epic Games that mashes up a lot of elements into one pleasant package. It’s got base-building and tower defense, guns forever, plus skill trees and loot gathering for the RPG folks. Most campaign missions begin with the player roaming a map and breaking down anything and everything in sight for parts, which can be used to craft new guns, build walls or traps. Almost everything you see is destructible, which is incredibly satisfying.
Once you’ve got things in place, you’ll have to defend an object or base from hordes of undead monsters with whatever you’ve got at your disposal – primarily an array of guns, swords and traps. While I admittedly spent most of my time playing alone because I am a mean-spirited hermit, the co-op is smooth and adds a lot of variety to your defense.
What Fortnite does well is roll a LOT of different elements into an experience where there’s something for everybody. You can bash up just about any structure. If you can’t reach something, you can quickly and easily build a ramp to get where you need to go. Explore the map. Shoot monsters. At the end of the mission, you’ll be rewarded with a loot box that’ll give you more goodies. It’s a little sandboxy, but you also get to watch numbers increase in a lot of different places, and all of those little bells and whistles just make you feel GOOD.
The time spent between missions is almost just as fun, as you roll through page after page of fresh loot and allocate skill points to progress. A lot of love has gone into making sure that any player will find something to really dig into. Skill points unlock new abilities for different character classes. Loot boxes will sometimes include new commanders to play, survivors to send on search team, new gun schematics and plans.
Living in your fort is a robot buddy named Ray, who is voiced by the magnificent Ashly Burch (Life Is Strange, Horizon Zero Dawn). On top of being hilarious and great, she’ll keep the plot moving along between and on missions. Between her dialogue and the spectacular graphics, the game really does make for a nice atmosphere. It’s refreshing to see a “zombie defense” game not take itself too seriously, and just focus on some fun and action.
Fortnite’s one big downfall is its UI. It’s cluttered and messy, and even after putting many hours into the game, half of the time I’m not sure what the heck I’m doing. Inventory management is a nightmare, and you’re often left second-guessing what’s actually in your inventory vs. what schematics you can use to craft, how much material is required, which tab I’m looking at, etc. This is especially infuriating if you happen to be in the middle of a mission and your gun breaks, or you are low on ammunition. You can craft guns or ammo on the fly, but after being told for the 500th time that “you don’t have enough resources” to craft ammunition, I’d kind of like a little more information. Did you not prepare traps before enemies started attacking? Too bad, and good luck figuring out which version of your traps you actually want to use. A lot of this could likely be solved with better labeling and tooltips.
In other words, Fortnite is at its best when you’re not worrying about your inventory, which is tricky in a game that encourages you to break everything you find and turn everything and everyone into parts. The gunplay is straightforward and fun. Base-building, though a little messy control-wise, is a hoot. Epic has done a nice job of slowly introducing you to new concepts as you play through the missions, and that’s very much appreciated in a game with so many moving parts. My sincerest hope is that the UI is cleaned up in the near future, because that might be the last bit of polish this game needs.
Fortnite entered Early Access on July 25th, but this player feels it’s worth diving into right this very second. Although Epic Games has stated via their website that Fortnite will transition to Free-to-Play sometime in 2018, you can join the fun right now for as low as $39.99.
Available on PC, Mac, PS4 and Xbox One.